I am not sure how to formulate my question but while learning Japanese vocabulary I could not help but notice that many adverbs seem to have a similar structure. For example, しっかり、ぐっすり、はっきり but there are many others. They are made up of 3 full hiragana and a small っ between the first and second. Is there an "official" grammatical group containing all these adverbs or is there a historical/linguistical reason why all these adverbs are similar?

Thank you in advance!


2 Answers 2


Yes, these words are a class of onomatopoeic adverbs called 擬態語(gitaigo). Their roots can be found in late middle Japanese (i.e. Tora-akira's Kyogen Anthology)

しかと(for しっかり) and respectively はきと (for はっきり) There is also くきと for くっきり or すきと for すっきり. ぐす can also be found there. Nowadays they can be used with or without と.


I've written about this in the past over at Wiktionary, such as here on the Talk page for どくん.

The basic patterns include:

  • Root: often onomatopoeic or otherwise imitative, such as ほそ or にこ
    • Some of these spawn adjectives, such as ほそらか and ほそやか and にこやか
  • Reduplicated: sometimes also with sequential voicing, such as ほそぼそ or にこにこ
  • With adverbial と: such as にこっと (not all of the imitative roots have と forms)

Have a look at the Wiktionary page, it provides more detail than the above.

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